Next year’s new iPhone and Android flagships may come standard with this new feature

The periscope lens is actually a bit like a function of "I can use it, but you can't".

In the discussion session after the release of the new phone, many enthusiasts or users will emphasize that there is no periscope telephoto lens, which is a bit disappointing.

Even though there are considerable user needs, manufacturers are always good at making choices. They choose a combination of various mid-focus and give up the periscope telephoto structure.

Even now, many products that claim to be the flagship of Android imaging do not actually have the so-called real periscope telephoto. Most of them use a 3.x mid-telephoto fixed focus, which is converted to about 70mm.

On the whole, through digital cropping and algorithms, it almost covers the combination of 14mm~70mm which is considered to be "commonly used" focal lengths, and can cover most usage scenarios.

Looking back, the 5x and 10x optical zoom performance brought by the periscope lens is indeed not used as frequently as 2x and 3x, but they belong to the kind of "impressive" functions that will make people love it once they are used .

Whenever users emphasize the need for a periscope telephoto lens, manufacturers always talk about the practicability of the mid-focus, as well as the fact that it can bring better picture quality, and that telephoto cropping is also sufficient for emergencies.

In fact, the short-lived appearance of the periscope lens is in the final analysis a technical problem, and a trade-off between the manufacturer's low input and output.

With the one-inch main camera gradually becoming standard, the "smoke" of periscope telephoto seems to be rekindled.

Continuous, optical zoom, periscope structure

Since it is a "technical" problem that prevents the periscope lens from entering the homes of ordinary people, let's solve it technically.

On the eve of CES 2023, the once world-renowned mobile phone manufacturer LG announced a miniaturized lens assembly that supports continuous optical zoom.

▲ The image of the true continuous light variable periscope lens component is from: LG

It supports four to nine times (about 90~200mm equivalent focal length) optical continuous zoom, and LG has also packed OIS optical image stabilization into this small component, which greatly improves the usability of telephoto.

In addition, the basic specification of the LG telephoto component is about 12 million pixels, 1/2.93 inch size, and the aperture range is F2.2~2.9.

▲ Sony Xperia 1 IV Image from: theVerge

And LG also stated that the 85mm~125mm optical zoom lens in the Sony Xperia 1 IV was the previous version of the new component solution announced today.

The periscope lens of Sony Xperia 1 IV is currently the only mass-produced version that supports continuous optical change. However, the Xperia series has become a niche choice, and the appearance of continuous optical change has not caused much waves.

▲ Picture from: LG

And LG, as a supplier, obviously does not want the products developed with a lot of money to be buried. This time LG directly found Qualcomm and cooperated with it, and has completed the integration on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform, including 3A algorithm, autofocus and other features.

In addition, LG will also announce the next partner manufacturer at CES, hoping to use Qualcomm's hands to quickly mass-produce it and push it to mainstream Android manufacturers.

One is to increase the market share of LG lenses, and the other is to popularize "true optical zoom" to the mass market.

It can be seen from the pictures released by LG of the new lens assembly that its volume is controlled quite well, and LG also emphasizes that the optical zoom module contains a floating lens group, which can quickly perform fine focusing and zooming operations, and compared to the previous The solution (presumably in the Xperia 1 IV) reduces power consumption and provides better clarity.

Judging from the Xperia 1 IV as a mass-produced reference, its size, image quality and zoom performance are actually not much different from traditional periscope lenses. LG's new solution is enough to look forward to.

Next, let’s look at CES. The next mass production plan announced by LG will not rule out that it will first appear on Samsung or Sony’s products. According to the update frequency of domestic manufacturers, they will have to wait until the middle of the year at the earliest, or second half.

Of course, there have been rumors that the iPhone 15 may introduce a periscope group, but it may not be the public version of the plan that LG is now announcing, and it does not rule out tailoring one for the iPhone.

It seems that the periscope lens is on the eve of explosion.

Continuous zoom, a perfect match for smartphones

Even a few years before the periscope lens became almost standard, the zoom on the mobile phone was actually a relay of multiple fixed-focus and algorithmic cropping.

When switching, the "relay" algorithm is very tested. White balance, color, and different angles, etc., all require experience and algorithms to balance.

Moreover, due to the quality of different lenses, in low light or high light ratio scenes, it is easy to have different color orientations at different focal lengths.

The continuous optical change can actually solve the flaws of the algorithm very well. Earlier than the Xperia 1 IV, ASUS ZenFone Zoom, Samsung Galaxy K Zoom and other products also introduced lenses capable of continuous optical change.

Leaving aside the lens quality, imaging level and experience, the huge optical lens group is actually a bit too powerful.

▲ There is no continuous light change, forming the habit of using multiple fixed focus

But now the DC digital card machines gradually replaced by smart phones also generally have a continuous optical zoom lens, which can cover as many photo scenes as possible.

The current Android flagships, in order to have a better picture quality, have used a 1-inch mobile ceiling image sensor, and the thickness of the body has also increased to a considerable thickness.

▲ It is better to call a digital camera that can make calls

Relatively speaking, the periscope lens should actually have enough space, but they still choose a telephoto lens of about 3 times, and cooperate with the algorithm to complete the so-called super telephoto shooting.

In fact, their consideration is still an input-output ratio. When introducing a periscope lens above 5x, it is still a fixed focus, while 2x and 3x lenses are more inclined to be completed by digital cropping.

Relatively speaking, the mid-telephoto solutions of Android manufacturers, compared to the unprecedented progress of the main camera, are actually somewhat stagnant, still hovering at the level of a few years ago.

▲ The three-camera module of the OPPO Reno 10x zoom version

When experiencing the new round of Snapdragon 8Gen2 this year, it is also more occupied by the high-quality main camera and some interesting lenses, while the high-magnification zoom brought by the 10x zoom of the Huawei P30 Pro The shock has been missing for a long time.

This time, the true optical zoom lens brought by LG, even though its sensor is still small, it is a great improvement over the past few years for the periscope telephoto lens.

Especially for smartphones that need to act as a "panacea", it is a perfect match.

Continuous optical variable lens, right in the arms of video creation

However, the continuous optical zoom lens also has a non-negligible durability problem, which LG did not mention in this regard.

In Allison Johnson's Sony Xperia 1 IV review, similar concerns were expressed. Even with the IP68 protection level, there are still doubts about whether the zoom lens can cope with daily vibration, bumps or wear.

But Sony did not answer Johnson's question directly. Just like the traditional optical zoom lens, it can easily complete the basic protection of waterproof and dustproof, but it does not support shockproof, and the internal movable focusing lens group is quite fragile.

▲ In the blind test of the well-known blogger MKBHD, Xperia 1 IV achieved a very good ranking

But at the end of the article, Johnson directly called Sony's introduction of "optical zoom" in the Xperia 1 IV a feat, even though there are still many limitations in practice.

Configurations close to traditional camera lenses are gradually appearing in smartphones, which is actually a technological advancement.

And LG, which proposed and put it into practice, also stated in the press release that "it will consolidate its strong position in the mobile phone camera module market." Apple's in-depth cooperation.

The current image performance improvement of the iPhone mostly revolves around the "camera" function, rather than taking pictures as the leading factor. The emergence of continuous light change is relatively more suitable for video applications, which can bring continuous and smooth zooming, and cooperate with the The algorithm provides a shallower depth of field.

The continuous optical zoom lens can quickly enter the market, one is to liberate the original telephoto demand, and the other is to create a brand new function.

What I have encountered so far, LG undoubtedly hopes to use technology upgrades to release the previous telephoto demand. For manufacturers, it may be difficult to use telephoto to become a rigid demand. Based on the characteristics of continuous light change, to create a Only with a new feature can the continuous light become a real burst.

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